How do you increase visibility? And once you have it, how do you maintain it?
Most economic development and entrepreneur service organizations struggle with this question. How do you get in front of that busy business owner whose head is down in their business? How do you show them that your network can actually make their path to entrepreneurship and business growth easier? And once you have their attention, how do you keep it?
You do it by reaching out (constantly and consistently) and meeting entrepreneurs where they are: through networking, tradeshows, “road shows,” social media marketing, speaking engagements, earned media, search engine marketing.
And then, once you have their attention, you use that outreach to invite entrepreneurs into your network.
That’s where community newsletters come in. A weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter is a smart way to highlight what’s going on within your entrepreneurial network and to increase your word of mouth.
Know your audience.
Before you create and share content with your entrepreneurs you need to know what kind of information they are looking for. Using data collected from The Resource Navigator®, we know entrepreneurs are generally searching for finance, business planning and marketing assistance. Utilizing The Resource Navigator for your network will show you specifically what help the entrepreneurs in your community need.
In Kansas City, for example, KCSourceLink knows that among more than 5,000 requests for assistance, these five categories rise to the top:
With that knowledge, KCSourceLink can craft and curate content to deliver the tips and information entrepreneurs want most.
Pro Tip: For a deep dive into the minds of your entrepreneurs, use a combination of The Resource Navigator, Google Analytics (look at top performing content as well as audience demographics, interests and organic search keywords) and social media analytics (we love to measure “thumb-stopping” content by tracking Facebook’s “photo view” and Twitter’s “detailed expands,” “hashtag clicks” and “URL clicks” alongside impressions and engagement). This information will be vital as you develop a strategy surrounding content creation.
Create “sticky” content.
Now that you know what your entrepreneurs are searching for, use this information to become the go-to for your entrepreneurial community (and, really, for search engines, too) by creating content that is perpetually relevant and refreshed.
Do this through a blog, learning library or a comprehensive business calendar on your website that lists classes and events from all of the partners in your network. Use this content to showcase your network of Resource Partners, and ultimately, demonstrate your value and increase visibility. Reach and teach your audience with useful articles they want to share with their own network.
Build your email list.
You’re on a roll. Creating top-notch content is the first step to building your newsletter list. Now turn your first impressions into lasting connections.
Put that stack of business cards and networking events to work. Someone, somewhere is answering a phone in your community to help direct entrepreneurs to resources. Implement a hotline as a single contact point and connect with your entrepreneurs. These days, so many companies use automated phone systems that you’ll stand out as an organization who actually speaks with their entrepreneurs.
Track these connections using Biz-Trakker®, a client relationship management system created specifically for business development organizations in support of startup, small growth-oriented businesses and entrepreneurs. (Yes, such a thing exists). Using Biz-Trakker sets your organization up for success because you can actually use this data to measure and report results while building your community’s entrepreneurial infrastructure.
Does your community have an entrepreneur-focused event coming up? Build your newsletter list by directing entrepreneurs and the community to your Event Campaign Calendar. Connect with your entrepreneurs and business owners by letting them create their own itineraries that they can save and email (that’s the magic word right there) to themselves. As an organization, you can build your email list, track registrations and survey attendees. The awesome part? The Event Campaign Calendar syncs with the SourceLink calendar for ultimate impact optimization.
See how KCSourceLink is promoting the Campaign Calendar during Global Entrepreneurship Week by showcasing more than 100 events to its 10,000 plus attendees. And after GEW is done, they’ll have a list of thousands of entrepreneurs who are interested in entrepreneurship.
Inspire and inform.
SourceLink affiliates are awesome resources for entrepreneurs and their communities, bringing together a rich network of business-building resources and vital information on what entrepreneurs need so that they can fill gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and strengthen their local economies.
Loudoun Economic Development produces a newsletter just for agribusiness that gets distributed three times a year. While it highlights conferences and local agricultural news, the Loudoun Producer has a tiny section that, in our honest opinions, steals the whole show.
In a recent edition, readers guess where Wilson, the wiener dog, is in Loudoun County based on photos of Wilson out and about in the community. It’s a simple, yet personable way to connect with readers and share your content (thus raising visibility for you and your Resource Partners).
Maximize via social media
IASourceLink allows Facebook users to sign up for their newsletter by utilizing the call-to-action button on the top of their Facebook Business page.
In fact, IASourceLink broadcasts when they’ve released a newsletter by posting to their social media channels. Resource Partners and followers can then share the post with their followers increasing your reach and visibility.
Use your newsletter to let readers know what your social media channels are so they never miss a thing. Dallas B.R.A.I.N. includes links to all of their social media including their physical address at the foot of their newsletters.
How do you connect with your entrepreneurs online?
Need help connecting entrepreneurs and increasing you and your Resource Partners’ visibility? Contact us—we’re here to help you identify resources, connect and empower entrepreneurs and measure your efforts.
This post was co-written by SourceLink's Sarah Mote, marketing director and Lauren Caldwell, communications specialist. Images by Unsplash, KCSourceLink, Loudoun SourceLink, IASourceLink and Dallas B.R.A.I.N.